Owen Jones and Bridget Christie set to headline festival of ideas

Author and columnist Owen Jones
Author and columnist Owen Jones

Imagine!, Belfast’s Festival of Ideas and Politics, will feature a host of thinkers and writers across a week-long programme that aims to get audiences exercising their grey matter.

Left-wing journalist Owen Jones, author of Chavs and The Establishment, a passionate critic of the political elite and financial classes who have engineered the current need for austerity and widespread cuts, and an incisive columnist for the Guardian, arrives at the festival to talk about the ‘politics of hope’. Standup comedian Bridget Christie will deliver a routine centred around material from her recent publication, A Book for Her, which engages with feminism, Christie’s own experiences as a female comic in a world that absurdly wants to insist that women are somehow not as funny as men, and, while always keeping the wry humour and political consciousnessness firmly in place, derides the social structures and prejudices that would attempt to make women feel bizarrely ashamed of being female.

Other high profile speakers participating in the March 14-20 programme include Geogg Mulgan, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Jo Wolff, Avi Shalaim, Cathy Gormely-Heenan and John Higgs.

Topics for discussion include the current state of democracy in Northern Ireland, the nature of progress, the possibility of a truly people-powered politics, the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, Brexit, abortion legislation and the legacy of the Troubles.

There will also be a series of talks on poverty, youth justice, the 20th century and elections.

The festival aim is to stimulate discussion of new ideas, big questions and activism and there will be over 80 events taking place in 25 venues across the city including discussions, talks, workshops, comedy from American Jennifer Rawlings, exhibitions such as photographer John Baucher’s look at immigration, and theatre such as The Rising at the MAC, Dramatising Political Ideas by Jimmy McAleavey and Tinderbox, and Tost from the Dylan Quinn Dance Company.

Festival director Peter O’Neill said: “The programme provides a unique opportunity for people to have their say on some of the big issues of our time in a fun, dynamic way. We want to encourage participation from people not normally involved in political debate and stimulate a discussion on new ideas and activism.”

He added: “Most of the events are free and spread across the city. So join us in making sense of our politics and culture.”

lFor details visit imaginebelfast.com or follow @imaginebelfast on Twitter.